Blog Overview

Robotics: Innovation and R&D in Switzerland

Author: Switzerland Innovation

Forbes recently called Switzerland “the Silicon Valley of Robotics” and said the country has “emerged as a serious competitor to California for the technologies, people and funding that will power the world’s fourth socio-economic revolution”. Find out why.

The talent pool for robotics in Switzerland has piqued the interest of American companies. From cutting edge startups to multinationals such as Amazon, Apple, Bosch, Disney, Google, Go-Pro, Facebook, IBM, Magic Leap, Microsoft, Oracle and Samsung, companies are conducting research in Switzerland, many of them in collaboration with Swiss universities and institutions. Google, for example, is developing its technology platform called Tango, which enables devices to navigate without the need for GPS.

At Switzerland Innovation, such interdisciplinary collaborations between science and industry can flourish, thus finding keys and pathways to commercialization into a new era. Some outstanding projects are featured below.

BestMile, located in Switzerland Innovation Park Network West EPFL, was the first company to offer on-demand autonomous mobility services and is now enabling the first instance in which electric autonomous shuttles are circulating through a city center on both pedestrian areas and open roads, and servicing the public daily. The company has successfully developed technology that leverages the potential of autonomous vehicles and tackles global mobility challenges.  

The MIRACLE project, under the leadership of Prof. Philippe Cattin and Prof. Hans-Florian Zeilhofer, was funded with 15.2 million Swiss francs by the Werner Siemens Foundation and performs research on the boundary between natural sciences and medicine. Four research groups, located at Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area, are working on this flagship project. MIRACLE, short for Minimally Invasive Robot-Assisted Computer-guided LaserosteotomE, aims to develop a robotic endoscope to perform contact-free bone surgery with laser light. The minimally invasive osteotome is planned to be applied in the fields of orthopedics, cranio-maxillofacial surgery, neurosurgery, otolaryngology, traumatology, and spinal column surgery.

In 2016, Cybathlon – the first ever Olympic-style competition for disabled people using robotics-based assistive technologies – was organized by ETH Zurich. Teams from around the world participated in this world-first, which made the unthinkable possible for disabled people. Brain Tweakers, a team of EPFL researchers representing the Chair in Brain-Machine Interface (CNBI) laboratory EPFL and NCCR Robotics, won the Brain-Computer-Interface race, while Scewo, an ETH Zurich start-up that has built a power wheelchair that can overcome stairs and obstacles like curbs, tram tracks, grass, mud or stones, participated with an electric stair-climbing wheelchair.